The global palm oil industry is at a critical juncture. In 2012 we published a report that outlined how Africa is a new frontier for industrial palm oil production. This may bring much needed development to the continent, but it could also just as easily come at a great social and environmental cost.
The expansion of palm oil production is one of the fastest growing drivers of deforestation in the tropics, emitting tons of greenhouse gases as a result. It too often leads to conflict with local communities over rights and access to land and forest resources, upon which they are highly dependent.
Much of the public work from Greenpeace on this campaign has been dedicated to stopping the illegal and irresponsible Herakles Farms project in the Southwest of Cameroon.
The "wrong project in the wrong place" is planned in an area of High Conservation Value (HCV) and will destroy the habitat of endangered wildlife including the chimpanzee. The company has not followed best practices by failing to obtain the free prior and informed consent of local communities and we have shown how Herakles Farms has resorted to "intimidation and corruption" to acquire land and silence any opposition. Additionally just last month we revealed how Herakles Farms colluded with the Government of Cameroon to illegally sell timber in order to save their financially struggling company.
The Herakles Farms project is a toxic one, so we have spent much of our time trying our utmost to stop it. However it is equally important to ensure that other investors in the region do not in any way replicate these mistakes or such an environmentally and socially damaging project.
Accordingly we have been pressuring all corporations and investors to be fully transparent about both their current and potential investments, to ensure there is accountability from the very beginning.
It's a simple equation; avoiding damage being done is far better than having to repair damage after it has been done. A palm oil project developed with full transparency and with the consent of all stakeholders involved has a better chance of becoming sustainable and socially responsible than projects negotiated in secret in murky back rooms.
This is why recently Greenpeace contacted a number of leading industrial palm oil companies. Our monitoring work in the Congo Basin region picked up evidence that these companies are either already developing a palm oil plantation, expanding an existing plantation or prospecting for a site for a future plantation in the area.
We asked them for a variety of information about their plans such as if the plantation expansion will impact the forest and what environmental safeguards they intend to put in place.
Such information should be public and available to a range of stakeholders, not just Greenpeace. So we have published the letters sent to these companies below. We also vow to publish any response we get from these companies. Transparency is the bedrock to responsible businesses and something that any company interested in truly responsibly investing in Africa would practice.
Some companies we are still to write to and some we are still waiting on a response.
Cameroon Development Corporation
Responses received thus far:
BioPalm page 1, page 2
Greenpeace is not against palm oil, but we stand for palm oil that is produced in a responsible way without leading to deforestation, threatening endangered wildlife, and without fuelling land use conflicts or undermining people's rights and livelihoods.
You can also help achieve this and begin now by signing up to help stop Herakles Farms project in Cameroon.
Amy Moas is a Forests Campaigner with Greenpeace USA.